tv CNN Presents CNN January 15, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am PST
even in death he remains the face of global terror. osama bin laden. a man who unleashed so much devastation here at ground zero and around the world. the hunt for bin laden of course ended when he was shot and killed in pakistan. a violent end to a violent man. a man of enormous contradictions. to understand how bin laden went from a son of saudi privilege to the world's most-wanted terrorist, we want to revisit our award-winning documentary "in the footsteps of bin laden." here's christiane amanpour. he was a young gentleman, very gentle, very polite. >> he said if i see you again, i'll kill you. >> he is the most popular muslim leader in the islamic world today.
>> translator: his voice. when you hear it, it makes you want to stand up right away to join him, to fight. >> what he's good at is killing civilians. ♪ >> osama bin laden was the world's most wanted terrorist. he haunted americans and millions of others around the world. i'm christiane amanpour in peshawar, pakistan, the birthplace of bin laden's terrorist organization, al qaeda. not far from here, just across the border in afghanistan, he disappeared shortly after 9/11. to know more about osama bin laden, to bring you his whole story, we visited his homes, his
headquarters, his hideouts. we journeyed in his footsteps, from saudi arabia to pakistan to afghanistan. those who have prayed with him, lived with him, and fought for him share the story of his gradual but deadly transformation. from a quiet religious boy to the angry voice of holy war. ♪ osama bin laden grew up in the
boomtown of jeddah, saudi arabia, a town his father helped build. >> saudi arabia in the 1960s was of course a fantastically wealthy kingdom. jeddah was its main door to the west. it was its main port on the red sea, and a huge amount of building had taken place. i'm brian. i taught osama bin laden english in saudi arabia from 1968 to 1969. osama sat about two-thirds of the way back on the right, by the windows. he was not an outstanding student academically. on the other hand, he was a very bright boy. >> reporter: although arabic and religious instruction took priority, the al fatah school, one of the top schools in the kingdom, was surprisingly progressive. >> the boys had a western uniform. they had trousers and shirts and jackets and shoes. >> faifel shaler had taught a number of bin laden's brothers.
osama's family was well-known in saudi arabia. his father's career was the stuff of legend. >> the bin ladens were almost a storybook success. >> reporter: in saudi arabia, the bin laden name is everywhere. it's a vast empire with humble beginnings. the family patriarch, mohammed, seen here in rare photographs, rose from a menial laborer to head one of the largest and most successful construction companies in the middle east. >> he built the airport. he built virtually everything that was standing more than two meters high had been built by bin laden. >> reporter: he had more than 50 children. osama was born in 1957, here in this riyadh neighborhood. he was the only child his mother had with mohammed bin laden before they divorced. then, bin laden and his mother, aliyah, moved to jeddah and
lived here, apart from the other wives and children. mohammed bin laden died when osama was just 10 years old. >> the school was abuzz with the news that mohammed bin laden had been killed in a plane crash. >> reporter: with so many siblings, it's hard to say how close osama was to his father or how the loss affected him. this photograph from the early 1970s shows some of the many bin laden brothers and sisters on a vacation in sweden. osama was quiet and shy. his teacher says he rarely spoke up in class. >> he didn't show any particular signs of being a leader amongst men. >> he was a shy boy. he wouldn't talk unless he needed to. he would listen more. i'm dr. khaled batarfi. i met osama bin laden in the early 1970s, when we lived in this neighborhood.
>> reporter: this nondescript middle-class jeddah neighborhood is where batarfi, then age 12, and bin laden, three years older, became neighbors and best friends, going to the mosque together, playing together, watching tv together. among their favorite shows, american westerns and bruce lee movies. >> we would watch cowboys movies and karate movies, things that, you know, action movies. >> reporter: batarfi took us to the field where he and bin laden played soccer as teenagers. >> and just looking at it brings a lot of memories. and i enjoyed being a captain, really, and telling people what to do. >> reporter: on the soccer field batarfi was the leader. osama, the follower. >> but i would tell him what to do, and he was a good soldier. he would follow orders.
usually because he was taller than most of us and older, he would play in the front, because this way he could use his head to, you know, score. >> reporter: batarfi says the teenage osama would usually take the high road. he remembers a time his friend was being bullied. >> so i went running to the guy, and i pushed him away from osama and solved the problem this way, but then osama came to me and said, you know, if you would have waited a few minutes, i would have solved the problem peacefully. so this was the kind of guy who would always think of solving problems peacefully. >> reporter: while batarfi took the lead on the playing field, when it came to religion, there was no question, osama was in charge. >> that's the mosque we used to pray in, yes, yes. ♪
>> five times every day, devout muslims turn towards the holy city of mecca to pray. osama was always among them. >> for him it was a must. >> reporter: it is something of a mystery, why this son of a wealthy family was drawn to such rigid religious beliefs. over time batarfi saw his best friend become even more of a fundamentalist, striving to live according to his ultrastrict interpretation of the holy koran. >> no pictures, no music, and after that, not even tv. unless there's news. >> reporter: osama's religious devotion went beyond living a simple pious life. he had begun to believe it was his duty to prepare to one day fight for and defend islam.
osama's training ground, the desolate saudi desert. the son of a multimillionaire was now preparing for a life without luxuries or even basic essentials, a life as a holy warrior. >> i hear from his brothers that when they go there, they sleep on the sand. there's no blanket if it's cold, and they, you know -- like soldiers. >> reporter: batarfi had no desire to join osama's army, so the two friends began to drift apart. >> i would prefer the beach. i was more romantic. you know, i was thinking of love. he was thinking of love of god. >> reporter: but how did osama bin laden's love of god become a mission to kill?
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[ speaking foreign language ]. what changed osama bin laden from a quiet, well-bred young man into the world's most wanted terrorist? what was the turning point? in the mid '70s bin laden married his cousin, the first of five wives with whom he would have at least 20 children. he became a student here at king abdulaziz university in jeddah.
>> i am jamal khalifa,he brother-in-law of osama bin laden. first time i met him in king abdulaziz university in 1976. >> reporter: 21-year-old khalifa and bin laden became very close. >> he loved horses a lot. especially arabian horses. >> reporter: when bin laden would journey on horseback into the saudi desert, he would travel with few supplies, always testing himself, perhaps in preparation for a different life. >> we have our dates with us in our pockets and water, that's it. we sleep on the sands. >> reporter: bin laden also took his children, seen here, into the desert, subjecting them to the same regimen. >> so at least the children will feel that sometimes they have to be tough. >> reporter: despite his wealth bin laden also insisted on few comforts at home. >> i went to visit him and i noticed that the apartment was
very bare. there was no pictures. the carpet was cheap. things were -- i wouldn't live there myself. >> he likes to be very, very, very simple. >> in hollywood terms bin laden has a great back story. my name is peter bergen. i met osama bin laden in eastern afghanistan in march of 1997. >> reporter: peter bergen, a cnn consultant, is the author of "the osama bin laden i know." this documentary is based in part on his groundbreaking reporting. >> he is the son of a billionaire who lives a frugal, simple life. he's sleeping on a floor. he's not using air conditioning. won't even drink cold water. >> reporter: an heir to one of saudi arabia's wealthiest families, he did not want to stand out. at least not yet. >> he doesn't like really to be a leader. never put himself in a position to be a leader.
>> reporter: but that would soon change. bin laden was about to be swept up in a movement that would carry him from student to the leader of a holy war. it was a religious movement, one that would pit young muslims against the establishment. it was called sahwa, or the islamic awakening. >> it was the sahwa, at that time it's all about religion and about how to practice islam. >> the sahwa was the islamic awakening of the 1970s. it was particularly appealing to somebody like bin laden who's already very religious. islamic awakening suggested we're going to create more just islamic societies around the middle east. >> he come from a generation of angry islamists, who wanted to change the muslim world for the better. my name is jamal khashoggi.
i met osama bin laden in 1987 in jeddah, saudi arabia. >> reporter: khashoggi, himself, was caught up in the awakening, as a saudi journalist he spent time with bin laden in afghanistan, saudi arabia, and later in sudan. how was osama bin laden influenced by the muslim brotherhood? >> he started with the muslim brotherhood in saudi arabia. he was very much influenced. >> the muslim brotherhood was born in egypt, and again and again, bin laden is influenced by egyptian ideas, egyptian political organizations, and egyptian people, and they tend to move him in a more radical and militant direction over time. >> reporter: this man, syed qutb, was an inspiration for the muslim brotherhood. he was executed in 1966 for what many believe was a trumped-up charge for attempting to overthrow the egyptian government. his book, "milestones," was must reading for jihadists and still is today. it challenges the long-accepted belief that holy war should only
be waged in response to an attack. qutb justifies something new, holy war that attacks the enemy first. >> all these things are now coming together for bin laden, the islamic awakening, the fact that he's joined the muslim brotherhood, the fact that he's reading syed qutb, and these are politicizing him and giving the idea we need to create more perfect states around the muslim world. >> reporter: 1979 would be a critical year for the islamic awakening. the ayatollah khomeini overthrew the shah of iran. americans were taken hostage at the u.s. embassy. muslim militants around the world were electrified. that same year the grand mosque in mecca, the holiest of sites,
became a battleground where militants seized it and the saudi government sent in troops. osama bin laden was appalled that such a holy place had been defiled. and then, one month later, the final blow. the soviet union, godless and communist, invaded afghanistan, a muslim country. it was an affront to islam. one year, three monumental events that would change bin laden forever. the once shy religious boy was about to answer the call to a violent jihad, and he would never look back. what makes this simple salad the best simple salad ever? heart healthy california walnuts. the best simple veggie dish ever? heart healthy california walnuts. the best simple dinner ever? heart healthy california walnuts.
he is the man who would mentor and shape osama bin laden throughout much of the 1980s. >> my name is hutaifah azzam. i've been living with bin laden for more than eight years continuously you could say. >> reporter: hutaifa is abdullah azzam's son. this is his first interview for western television. >> my father was leading islamic and arabic studies and osama bin laden was studying engineering at that time. >> reporter: bin laden was drawn to the influential cleric, seen here in afghanistan. he was the ideological force behind the call for jihad and he implored the young and impressionable osama to follow him. >> at the end of 1984 in the summer my father told him, you have to leave with me. i'm leaving to pakistan and afghanistan. >> reporter: bin laden responded. he made the move from saudi arabia to pakistan. >> the picture you get of bin laden at this point of his life, he's shy, he's retiring, he's
monosyllabic, people will hardly get a word out of him. and he's completely overshadowed by abdullah azzam a larger than life charismatic figure who had a father-son relationship with bin laden. >> it was in this neighborhood that osama bin laden and abdullah azzam set up the headquarters of an organization they called the services bureau. it was to assist muslim fighters heading into afghanistan and also afghan refugees fleeing the soviet army. bin laden's time in the shadow of his mentor abdullah azzam would be short-lived. no longer content to merely fund the fight, bin laden yearned to join it. his countless hours and days in the harsh saudi desert without shelter and with few provisions had prepared him for this moment. it was always his belief that he was destined to be a holy warrior. >> i think he's always modeled himself on the prophet mohammed
and the prophet mohammed was not only a great religious figure but also somebody who personally battled the infidels. so for bin laden it would have been important to continue in the prophet mohammed's footsteps. >> reporter: for bin laden the early days on the battlefield were terrifying. >> when bin laden used to hear the explosions, he used to jump and he used to run away. i still remember that me and my elder and younger brother, we used to laugh. >> reporter: but several years on the battlefield would harden bin laden. fear gave way to ambition. mohammed bin laden's shy and reticent young son osama, once reluctant to lead, was now ready to command his own all-arab army in afghanistan. his mentor adamantly opposed this idea. it was the beginning of a rift that would never heal. >> bin laden went and he built up his own camps. he built up his own front.
and he started doing his own battles. my father doesn't want arabs to work separately. and that's what bin laden did in 1987. >> their first test was the battle of jaji in the spring of 1987. hutaiffa azzam fought alongside bin laden, who was suffering from blood pressure in the thin mountain air. >> it was a very hard battle and he joined the battle for more than four days. >> reporter: the russians fell back. jaji was the first victory for bin laden's arab army. >> it was not a particularly significant moment in the afghan war. but from a psychological point of view it was really the beginning of sort of bin laden's almost mythic persona because a group of arabs had held off the soviets. it got a lot of play in the middle east. >> reporter: the once reticent and terrified bin laden was now hailed as a fearless leader, a
hero on the front lines of jihad. >> he's brave, and he's ready to give his life. he's not a coward. [ speaking foreign language ]. >> reporter: in 1988 the soviets, worn down and demoralized, began to withdraw from afghanistan, and bin laden, now battle-hardened, returned to peshawar, a holy warrior without a war. but this man would soon change that. ayman al zawahiri. >> we are muslims who believe in their religion! >> reporter: a radical egyptian who would give bin laden the enemy he was looking for.
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the battle in jaji. newspapers, magazines. everybody's talking about it. he became a hero. >> reporter: bin laden's soaring confidence and abundant wealth would soon attract those looking to exploit this rising star. militants like ayman al zawahiri, an egyptian doctor with plans to separate bin laden from his money and from his mentor, abdullah azzam. >> egyptian told him if you come we will make you the leader so we can build up our own organization, we can keep you -- amir, we can keep you the leader of that organization. >> reporter: zawahiri had spent three years in egypt's notorious prisons for his jihadist activities. >> we want to speak to the whole world. >> reporter: embittered after years of torture at the hands of the egyptian government -- >> why did they bring us here? >> reporter: -- zawahiri was determined to overthrow the secular regimes of the middle east.
his was not a battle for a piece of land. he wanted an islamic world without borders. >> bin laden was increasingly being influenced by egyptian militants in his circle saying let's overthrow all these secular governments in the middle east. and abdullah azzam was opposed to that because he didn't want to be part of anything that pitted muslims against muslims. >> reporter: armed with a radical new ideology, bin laden was ready to step out from behind azzam, ready to lead his army on to the next war. and that army would take shape here in peshawar, pakistan. in this neighborhood, where osama bin laden lived. meetings were held, plans were made. this is where al qaeda was born. recruits were soon put to the test. in february 1989 the soviets in the last stages of their withdrawal left behind a puppet afghan communist government.
for osama bin laden and al qaeda, victory in afghanistan was not yet complete. they joined the battle against the afghan communists in jalalabad, near the pakistan border. on the battlefield in jalalabad bin laden was a dismal failure. >> we lost more than 45 kilometers because of his mistake. >> reporter: and he lost many soldiers. among those in the militant community like egyptian osama rushdi bin laden's reputation took a hit. >> translator: lots of people criticized osama bin laden because he led the arab fighters into the battle for jalalabad in a very disorganized way. more than 300 of them were killed. >> reporter: shortly after the battle bin laden returned home to saudi arabia. >> my name is turki al faisal. i met osama bin laden in pakistan in 1985.
>> reporter: prince turki al faisal was the head of saudi arabia's intelligence service. he told me that in 1990 bin laden offered up his army to drive out the communists from neighboring yemen but the saudis didn't take him seriously. later that year, when saddam hussein invaded kuwait, bin laden once again offered his troops to the saudis. >> he asked other officials in the kingdom for the opportunity again to bring his mujahadin, as he called them, to drive out saddam hussein from kuwait. and again he was told that that was not the right thing to do. >> reporter: instead, the saudis turned to the west for help. the u.s. led a multinational coalition with hundreds of thousands of american troops in the land of the two holiest places, mecca and medina.
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it's an explosive beginning to his first and only press conference. witnessed by pakistani journalist ismail khan. >> all of a sudden they were shooting and then boom, boom, rocket-propelled grenades and firing. and for once i thought we have come under attack or something. >> reporter: may 26th, 1998. this was bin laden's videotaped call for war against america. [ speaking foreign language ]. in this press conference bin laden goes public with al qaeda's plans to attack the united states. [ speaking foreign language ]. bin laden had turned a corner with his declaration of war. no longer would he just attack the u.s. military or u.s. leaders.
now he was saying that the american people would be legitimate targets. >> my name is hamid mir. and i met osama bin laden first time in tora bora mountains. >> reporter: journalist hamid mir is writing an authorized biography of bin laden. he interviewed the al qaeda leader three times during the 1990s. how did he justify the killing of innocent americans? >> he said that, yes, the killing of innocent children and women is not permitted in islam. but if they are killing our innocent children, if they are providing weapons to the israelis and to the other anti-muslim forces to kill muslims, then we have the right to respond back in the same manner. >> reporter: while bin laden believed he had a political justification for killing american civilians, he needed the trappings of clerical legitimacy.
that would come in the form of a fatwa, a religious decree from sheikh omar abdel rahman, the blind radical egyptian cleric, the spiritual guide of the 1993 world trade center bombers. when the fatwa was handed out at bin laden's press conference, rahman was already imprisoned in the united states on terrorism charges. >> neither bin laden nor ayman al zawahiri, his number two, are religious scholars. and they know that. so they needed this fatwa from sheik rahman to kind of give them clerical cover for this unprecedented thing, which was attacking american civilians. >> reporter: this laminated card with its arabic script outlined with chilling accuracy al qaeda's terrifying new course. it is seen here on television for the first time.
>> in that fatwa it was written that kill americans in the sea, kill americans in the air, kill americans everywhere. >> reporter: rahman's significance to al qaeda is underscored by his fervent preoccupation with freeing the blind sheik from his american prison cell. osama bin laden vowed as much in this video. [ speaking foreign language ]. there's even a training exercise aimed at springing rahman outlined in the encyclopedia of jihad, al qaeda's massive guide on everything from guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics to how to recognize a rattlesnake or treat a scorpion sting. >> thousands and thousands of pages. draws on many sources including u.s. army manuals and is something that other than the
training camps is the most important thing that al qaeda gave to the global jihadist movement. >> the encyclopedia. the years of recruiting. the training camps. al qaeda's murderous new ideology. all of it culminating in this, osama bin laden's official and very public declaration of war on america and americans. [ speaking foreign language ]. bin laden had spoken. once again he had warned his enemy. but was anyone really listening? did anyone take him seriously? bin laden was about to strike and now had his own spy casing the target. >> my name is ali mohamed.
>> reporter: an agent who had spent years inside the u.s. military. [ sirens ] two american embassies, two truck bombs, two terrorist attacks just nine minutes apart in neighboring countries along the coast. kenya and tanzania. more than 200 dead. more than 4,000 injured. who was behind this carnage and why? within eight days there were leads and suspects and a stunning realization. osama bin laden had lived up to his threat. his al qaeda terrorists had just
struck their first direct blow in their holy war against the united states. the attacks were carefully planned. >> my name is ali mohamed. >> reporter: this man, ali mohamed, was no ordinary al qaeda operative. he married a californian in 1985 and became an american citizen. he joined the u.s. army. >> at the same time that he was a u.s. army sergeant and actually working at special forces headquarters in fort bragg, north carolina he was also intimately involved with al qaeda, training bin laden's bodyguards. >> ali mohammed had done what they call casing of the american embassy in nairobi in december of 1993. a five-year span between casing and operation. >> reporter: and listen to what ali mohammed said in a u.s. court. >> my surveillance files and photographs were reviewed by osama bin laden.
bin laden looked at the picture of the american embassy and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber. >> reporter: shortly after the terrorist attacks on the two u.s. embassies this man, abdul raheem al nashiri, approached bin laden with a new scheme. two years of planning followed. on october 7th, 2000, in the yemeni port of aden, two al qaeda suicide bombers steered their small boat up to the "uss cole." their bomb blew a gaping hole in the navy destroyer and killed 17 american sailors. >> to those who attacked them, we say, you will not find a safe harbor. we will find you and justice will prevail. >> reporter: but the u.s. did not retaliate, and four months
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september 11th, 2001. osama bin laden brings his bloody holy war to america. a plan hatched years before. nineteen al qaeda members. four hijacked planes. a suicide mission that killed some 3,000 people in new york, washington, d.c., and pennsylvania. >> [ speaking foreign language ] >> reporter: osama bin laden had once again made good on his threats. >> bin laden believes he's doing god's will and that if he doesn't do what he's doing that god will punish him. he generally believes that god is telling him what to do. >> reporter: on october 7th, the united states struck back. with lightning success.
afghanistan was overrun in weeks. >> our military forces and the forces of our allies and many afghans seeking a better future are liberating afghanistan. >> interestingly, there's been a lot of internal criticism within al qaeda about the 9/11 attacks. this may be surprising i think to most people. but al qaeda insiders were saying, you know, this was a tactical success but a strategic disaster. we lost our base in afghanistan. the taliban no longer exists more or less. our group has been very much damaged. bin laden's son, omar, left him. he basically said to his father, these attacks were dumb. they were stupid. we've got this 800-pound gorilla after us now. in fact, i'm going to leave. and he left afghanistan and he went to saudi arabia and he's basically i think washed his hands of his father. >> reporter: on november 12th, kabul was overtaken by an afghan militia allied with the united states.
the taliban were routed and bin laden ran to the one refuge he knew best -- the afghan mountains. so what will the future of osama bin laden's jihad look like? those who knew him say that his holy war and the violence it ignited will continue on. and everywhere people are wondering when al qaeda will strike next. bin laden himself had already written the next chapter. he called for his own children to carry on the fight. before his death bin laden became a father again, this time to a daughter he named safiyah, after a woman famous for killing a jewish spy. >> he told me that when my daughter will grow she will also kill the enemies of islam. >> reporter: from one generation to the next, osama bin laden left a legacy of terror. his holy war far, far from over.
>> i think bin laden has been successful in creating 1,000 other bin ladens, which we will be dealing with for at least a generation. >> against my people all over the world. >> what you have witnessed now is only the beginning. [ speaking foreign language ]. >> osama bin laden is dead. he'll never strike in america again. but his legacy of terror still surrounds us. from ground zero i'm anderson cooper. thanks for joining us.
the following is a cnn special report. morten storm, for half a decade, he says he moved back and forth between two worlds and two identities when one misplaced sentence could have cost him his life. >> you don't know what angle he's playing. >> traveling between atheism, hardline islam, english an arabic. >> one minute he's 007. on the other side he's now part of the militant circle. >> reporter: between being an agent for western intelligence and a sworn member of al qaeda, storm says he was a double agent so trusted by al qaeda terror